LGBT community needs better services from CSULB administration

It has been a challenging year for the LGBTIQ community in the country with the epidemic of bullying related suicide among its youth, the reinstatement of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the military and the still existing ban on same sex marriages in California and other states, plus the challenges on such marriages in states like Iowa. Cal State Long Beach prides itself as a diverse, inclusive and safe university, but two incidents that happened last year — a violent homophobic slur toward Conciencía Feminíl and a hate-related attack on a transgender student on campus — proved otherwise. The sad part of this story is the hate crime is still unresolved.

As the Associated Students Inc. Secretary for LGBTIQ Affairs and Student Assistant in the LGBT Resource Center, I had the great opportunity of serving this community and getting a glimpse of the campus climate in our day to day conversations. Common sentiments include fear of being physically or verbally attacked, apprehension of coming out or being “outed” and the feeling of being neglected or “left-out” by the university administration. Even the absence of safe and gender-neutral restrooms would be brought up in discussion from time to time. The LGBT Resource Center — a vital facility for a struggling LGBTIQ youth to feel safe and at home in campus — is located in a far, hidden and ancient building on the upper east side of the campus. Freshmen and transfers find it difficult to find the center. For some, it literally took a whole semester of searching for it until they actually found it. They constantly ask me why we are in such an obscure location and I always find myself at a lack words to respond with. Some students in the center would say, “It’s because they are ashamed of us!” In other universities like UCLA and USC, similar facilities are located in the Student Union, safe and accessible.

This week, we are celebrating LGBT Diversity Week on campus — an annual event aimed at promoting awareness and acceptance between LGBTIQ and the whole college community. Student organizations and volunteers in collaboration with our community partners organized an array of events ranging from educational ones, artistic ones and others providing more entertainment. I have personally seen the determination and passion of these students to change this negative campus climate and fight for their rights not only as students, but also as humans; but I believe that institutional reforms in our university are also necessary to ensure that the nightmares of last year never happen again in our campus.

Several state colleges and universities around the country have official LGBTIQ Advisory Boards consisting mainly of faculty, staff, students and other members of the community. Under the president’s mandate, they were able to advise on pertinent policy changes and reforms necessary to ensure genuine inclusivity, diversity and safety in their university. Maybe this is something that our administration should consider. Surely it will make all of us students feel safe and cared for.

Maria Carmen Hinayon is the ASI Secretary for LGBTIQ Affairs and Student Assistant in the LGBT Resource Center.

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